Monday, August 26, 2013

Pope at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours

 by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

Last week we headed south for the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in "not always sunny" Monterey, California.

Tim Cerny, the museum owner, finally got to see our 1906 Pope Toledo Type XII when we rolled the car out of the trailer (above right). As you can see from the pictures, it is a stunning car, with nary a flat panel on it.  Our friend Marlene refers to it as the Jane Mansfield car, "big headlights and lots of curves!" We had to fight the brass-tarnishing mist to get the car ready for showing, but we had her ready on time. Many thanks to Al and Paul Murray, of Murray Motor Car, for their hard work getting the Pope-Toledo ready for the Concours.

A real work of art lies under the Pope-Toledo's hood. The blend of polished steel, aluminum, brass, and copper are a sight that you really need to see in person, as the pictures just do not do it justice.

The right side of the engine is even more fun to look at than the left side. The engine has atmospheric intake valves that make a unique buzz sound when it runs, and you will be amazed at how slowly this engine will run. The advertised range of 200 to 1200 rpm would push the car from 5 mph to 60 mph without shifting out of high gear, a true "mile-a-minute" car as the company advertised.

The cowl on the Type XII Pope-Toledo is quite striking, with its brass rail following the curvature of the dash. A very unique oiling drip gauge mounted on the right side of the dash is a must-see (you will have to come see it in person when it arrives).  The car was restored in 1956-57 and retains the same paint and upholstery that was done then. It still looks like new!

At right is the Pope-Toledo on the 18th green of the Pebble Beach Golf Course. Approximately ten-thousand people crowded the field to view the Concours and most stopped by to admire the Pope. It always helps to have a pretty lady dressed in period attire alongside the car...

We were very pleased when we learned that the Pope-Toledo won Third in Class (A1-Antiques) and the Ansel Adams special award. Next up is the Kirkland Concourse d'Elegance at the LeMay Museum on September 8, then North to Alaska!

Coming to Fairbanks to see the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum and other area attractions? Support the museum by staying at one of the Fountainhead Hotels. All guests receive half-price admission to the museum!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Valdez or Bust, 100 Years Later: Part 2

 by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

A continuation from Part 1 of the commemoration of Robert Sheldon's pioneering drive from Fairbanks to Valdez in 1913.

As our travels continued, the nice weather stayed with us as we made our way south to the Sourdough Roadhouse. There is not much left of the original buildings due to several fires, but we stopped long enough for a photo in front of the rebuilt lodge. Sourdough was a popular stop for travelers on the old Valdez-Fairbanks Trail, thanks to its clean rooms and excellent food. 

We had no trouble crossing the rivers and creeks (unlike Sheldon), so we made good time. We also had no car troubles until we reached Tonsina Lodge, where we had our second flat tire. Don, having the good sense to think ahead, had procured some "Green Slime" in Fairbanks while we were dealing with the first flat tire. Here was our chance to see if it would work on a tube type tire. Lo and behold, it worked great and is still holding today. We will order and install new tubes prior to the next adventure with the old Dodge.

After leaving Tonsina, the old Dodge ran like a fine Swiss watch, ticking off the miles with little effort. This photo was taken as we neared the top of Thompson Pass. Steve said, "I bet people seeing this old car coming out the fog are thinking it must be a ghost from the past." Once we reached the summit, the heavy fog and truck traffic convinced us to load the Dodge in the trailer and haul it down the pass. Safety first!

I am not sure that this was the correct turn, as we made the trip without a GPS. We did however, come thru with no damage, didn't even scrape the fenders! Wait, didn't we have an outside mirror on the car when we entered the tunnel?

This actually wasn't part of the old Trail, but was a tunnel in Keystone Canyon hand cut for a railroad that was to run between Valdez and Copper Center. Much controversy and a feud--culminating in a shootout--led to its demise. You can read about it here.

After the tunnel we decided to do some minor brake adjustments. My job was to make sure Steve didn't get run over while he crawled under the Dodge.  We agreed that we may make a few changes to the brake system before the next big trip in 2016, when the Dodge turns 100 years old.

Here's Don in front of Horsetail Falls in Keystone Canyon, on a sunny warm day just outside of Valdez. We couldn't have asked for better weather. This was a great trip with good friends, in a great old car that once again has made memories for a lot of people.

Here's the Dodge at the end of its road trip in Valdez. The town made us feel welcome, as did the great folks at the museums. This trip took a lot of work and time to make it come together, and I wish to extend a big thank you to all who made it possible, and for the opportunity to be involved with this project.

I'm really looking forward to the Dodge's next big trip in 2016. Don and Ray will be in charge of the food again, Dave can handle the weather, Steve can make sure the Dodge is ready, and I will just enjoy the trip....

Top left photo of the Sourdough Roadhouse and Robert Sheldon courtesy of Frances Erickson, Sheldon's daughter.

All other photos were taken by Bobbie Hasselbring, a travel writer for Motor Home Magazine.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Valdez or Bust, 100 Years Later: Part 1

by Willy Vinton
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

On July 29, 2013, a group of intrepid travelers departed Fairbanks at 10:15 AM to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Robert Sheldon's pioneering drive down the Valdez-Fairbanks Trail (now Richardson Highway). Sheldon made the trip in a Ford Model T, but we chose one of Fairbanks's very first Dodges--a former Valdez Trail stage on display in the museum--as our honorary chariot. We were able to leave 12 hours ahead of Sheldon's evening departure time for an interesting reason. Unlike Sheldon, who had to wait for creek levels to fall at night in order to ford them, we knew we'd have easy crossings thanks to bridges.

We only made it about five miles before we had our first flat tire (you can see the tire getting low in the photo at right). We were running on new old stock tires that had never been used, and the old tube in one failed.  We stopped in North Pole, removed the tire, and sent Don back to Fairbanks for a new tube and repairs. Thanks to TDS, we were back on the road before long.

As we progressed down the road to Delta and Rika's Roadhouse, the old Dodge started to run rough. We were traveling at a slower pace than we liked, but the car still pulled the hills in high gear, running best at a slow pace of around 20 mph. Several stops to attempt to correct the problem didn't improve things, even using FORD parts (i.e., baling wire).  Once at Rika's, we let the car sit and figured out the problem. Once again Don was sent to find repair parts. He located a coil and condenser at Delta's NAPA store, and after a few modifications we got the parts installed and once again had a great running old Dodge.

We spent our first night by the Lodge at Black Rapids, where we had a very warm welcome and a rare evening with no wind. We took a tour of the original Rapids Roadhouse, which Lodge owners Mike and Annie Hopper are working to restore. It is one of the few historic roadhouses along the Richardson Highway that is still standing. The photo at right was taken a few decades after Bobby Sheldon first drove by it.

On the second day we continued through the Alaska Range, climbing up to Isabelle Pass and Summit Lake. The weather was perfect, and there wasn't a wrinkle on the lake. A tour bus stopped while we were there and lots of pictures were taken of us. We enjoyed sharing information about Sheldon's drive with all with the tourists. Shown here is our group (l-r): Don and Nancy Cameron, Steve Carey, Ray and Jill Cameron, Dave Stone (with the halo) and me. Bobbie Hasselbring, a travel writer who came along to write a story for  Motor Home Magazine, took the photo.

Don has a very determined look in the photo at right, as if he is just going to walk the rest of the way. Maybe that was how Sheldon felt about this time on his trip! For us, we had encountered enough challenges to make the trip interesting, but nothing like Sheldon must have experienced on that first drive down the Trail.

At this point in the trip we all agreed it had been a great adventure so far, getting to know the car, how it reacts and what it likes. It had to be satisfying for Steve to know that all the work he had done on the Dodge's engine was first class, and that the car just might make it all the way to Valdez.

Read Part II here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Our Reviewers Say

by Nancy DeWitt

We'd like to dedicate this blog post to all the wonderful people that have visited the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, especially those that have written a review on TripAdvisor. If you need more convincing to come visit us, check out the link above or this sample of reviews:
I'm sorry to say that visiting an antique auto museum was not on my list of things to do while visiting Fairbanks... HOWEVER... I'm so glad that our friends we were traveling with suggested it. What a wonderful surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through the museum. The cars were so beautifully restored, and the clothing from the era made the display come alive. I felt like I was transformed to another time. The walking (audio) tour device gave each individual the chance to walk at their own pace and hear information about each car. I highly recommend this experience to anyone visiting Fairbanks!
The refurbished autos were awesome and hearing their story, then seeing the dress of the day tied it all together. Loved having sit down areas throughout and the silent films were a fun addition. Wow, they really put those first cars through heck driving around on Alaskan dirt roads. Hearing about the man who made Alaska's first car was interesting and seeing the progression of the auto brought history up close and personal.
We were on a tight itinerary during our Alaska tour, so we wanted to hit the highlights of each stop. While an auto museum wouldn't be a logical stop on this type of vacation, the great reviews on Trip Advisor piqued our interest. This turned out to be one of the most memorable stops of the entire vacation. The collection of historically significant cars is truly amazing, and the recorded tour is very well done. Furthermore we found the staff to be wonderful. If you have any interest in automobiles and their role in Alaskan and U.S. history, I would highly recommend this museum. 
Even the locals love the museum!
I have lived in Fairbanks for many years. My guests from all over the world are blown away by this museum. You do not have to know anything about cars to love this attraction; you do not have to be male. Even kids love it -- especially the dress up part.
Visitors also enjoy the convenience of staying at Wedgewood Resort and Bear Lodge, right next door:
If you are up this far north, you won't find a better place to stay! The Bear lodge is a first rate hotel with fine dinning, and a Great buffet breakfast too! Be sure to check out the Car museum! They even have a shuttle to take you to the museum and into town if you wish, But this hotel has everything you will need right here on site, It is a gem, this far north! be sure to check out the fine art on the walls too! The owner has Fantastic taste! and he shares it with you!